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J.J. Abrams is exploring "the Stephen King multiverse"
Adaptations of Stephen King novels are having a renaissance thanks to the movies IT, Gerald's Game and 1922 and the series Mr. Mercedes. (We do not recognize The Dark Tower. As far as we're concerned, it never happened, and is still awaiting a proper adaptation.) Beyond that, things that feel like the work of Stephen King are having success, too, most notably Stranger Things, which counts the author's '80s work as one of its biggest influences.
Hulu has figured out a way to combine both types of King content in Castle Rock, a series that will use characters and themes from King's novels to tell new stories set in the titular town King created. It's fan fiction elevated to its highest point from the minds of two masters: King and executive producer J.J. Abrams. There was one other Stephen King anthology series -- 2006's Nightmares and Dreamscapes, which adapted several of his short stories -- but Castle Rock is different than any other prior King adaptation. Here's what we know so far about the show:
The basics: Season 1 will consist of 10 episodes and will premiere July 25. According to The Verge, it will tell the story of an attorney named Henry Deaver (played by Moonlight's Andre Holland) who returns home to Castle Rock to represent an inmate at Shawshank Prison with an "unusual legal problem." It will weave in references to King stories the same way King self-references in his fiction. Further seasons will tell new tales with different people, but will exist in the same interconnected universe.
"Each season may or may not feature the same cast. It's the story of the town -- and there's a church and there are houses, and that will not change," is how production company Bad Robot's TV chief Ben Stephenson put it to The Hollywood Reporter. "But each [season] will look at the town from a different point of view from a different character."
The two teasers released don't give much information but set a spine-tingling atmosphere, and one does contain some Easter eggs.
Here's how Hulu describes it: "A psychological-horror series set in the Stephen King multiverse, Castle Rock combines the mythological scale and intimate character storytelling of King's best-loved works, weaving an epic saga of darkness and light, played out on a few square miles of Maine woodland. The fictional Maine town of Castle Rock has figured prominently in King's literary career: Cujo, The Dark Half, IT and Needful Things, as well as novella The Body and numerous short stories such as Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption are either set there or contain references to Castle Rock. Castle Rock is an original suspense/thriller -- a first-of-its-kind reimagining that explores the themes and worlds uniting the entire King canon, while brushing up against some of his most iconic and beloved stories."
It has an impressive pedigree: J.J. Abrams also executive-produced the miniseries 11.22.63, Hulu's first Stephen King show, as well as directed a little movie called Star Wars: The Force Awakens. So he knows how to take some preexisting intellectual property and reshape it into something new yet familiar. Sam Shaw and Dustin Thomason, who previously worked together on WGN's underrated atom bomb series Manhattan, are writing and executive-producing. Abrams told Jimmy Fallon that what they wrote is "cool, terrifying, weird and funny." The series is produced by Abrams' Bad Robot Productions and Warner Bros. Television.
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And an impressive cast: In addition to Holland, the show stars Togetherness' Melanie Lynskey as Molly Strand, a real estate agent who's having trouble making any sales since every house in Castle Rock seems to have had something terrible happen there; Suburgatory's Jane Levy as Jackie, the town's unofficial historian; and Lost's Terry O'Quinn as a local rich guy named Dale Lacy. Castle Rock also features two actors already known for iconic roles in Stephen King adaptations: Bill Skarsgård, who plays Pennywise in IT, and Sissy Spacek, whose breakthrough role was the titular lead in Carrie. Skarsgård, who will be playing the aforementioned Shawshank inmate, was cast in July, before IT even came out, so Castle Rock's producers must have had insider information about how scary he can be. Spacek will be playing Henry Deaver's mother Ruth, "whose fading memories may hold a key to Castle Rock's unsettling past."
One connection to King mythology is already clear: The Leftovers' Scott Glenn will be playing Alan Pangborn, who was the sheriff of Castle Rock from 1981 to 1991 and appeared in the novels (and movies) The Dark Half and Needful Things.
King is only involved in an advisory capacity: "I don't have any plans to write for it but I'm in contact with J.J. Abrams," he told USA Today. "We've talked about a couple of interesting ideas, and I know at least one of the stories that has a Castle Rock background will figure in the TV series. It's a little like sending your kids off to college: Here's what I've got for you, I've raised you right, hopefully you'll go off and you won't get into trouble. Sometimes they do anyway!"
A teaser premiered during the Super Bowl: Check it out here.
The trailer makes it look like Twin Peaks: The premiere date-revealing trailer (via Entertainment Weekly) leans into the "evil town" angle of Castle Rock, with Terry O'Quinn saying in voiceover "There's blood in every backyard, inside every house. People say it wasn't me; it was this place. And the thing is, they're right." Spooky!
The rest is secret: Hulu declined to comment on any other developments for this article. Womp womp.
Castle Rock premieres Wednesday, July 25 on Hulu.